Proposal aims to undo SB54 compromise

Utah State CapitolA bill that could have the effect of gutting the Legislature’s compromise with the Count My Vote/SB54 has hit the Utah House.

But even its sponsor isn’t enthusiastic about it.

HB447 by Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Salem, says a candidate for office must select either the petition-gathering route to the primary or the caucus/delegate/convention route.

But he or she can’t take both routes at the same time – as now allowed under SB54.

In Capitol Hill jargon it is the “either/or” issue – one pushed by some opponents of SB54 – the 2014 compromise law that got CMV backers to drop their citizen initiative petition which would have required ALL candidates to gather a set number of signatures to get on a party primary ballot.

“I filed this bill” for a constituent, Roberts told UtahPolicy. “I don’t know what I’ll do with it – that is one reason it is coming out so late.”

There are only seven working days left in the 2017 Legislature.

It is generally believed that should a candidate have to choose between signature gathering or facing delegates in their state or county conventions, they would choose the delegate route.

That’s because several county GOP parties (not the state organization) have decided to actively oppose any primary candidate who doesn’t also get at least 40 percent of the convention vote.

If HB447 becomes law, in those counties any Republican that chose the petition route would automatically be opposed by their party – certainly not a desirable thing.

The history of SB54 is controversial as far as the Utah Republican Party is concerned – which has sued three times over the new law.

And Roberts has been a steadfast opponent of the dual route to the primary.

But even for him, HB447 may be too much.

“Right now I’m not planning on doing anything with it,” said Roberts.

However, now having HB447 as a vehicle, should the GOP House caucus decide to move on the issue (historically, the Senate GOP caucus has been more of a stalwart in favor of SB54), the “either/or” controversy could bubble up before adjournment midnight March 9.

In any case, HB477 would break the Count My Vote compromise, leaders of the petition have told UtahPolicy in the past.

For part of the CMV’s efforts is to allow a candidate to avoid the archconservative GOP delegates and the highly-progressive Democratic delegates, and thus be more likely to represent the middle of the road members of both major political parties.